Lectures week 3.
Tuesday: Previously, Professor Michael Molotar of Columbia University discussed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This complex international legal arrangement took decades to develop, and was only finally ratified in 1994. This year we will cover Chapter 5 on Ocean Sediments. Sediments are important to a variety of problems of importance to humans such as climate change, petroleum resources, etc.
Chapter 6 The Atmosphere will be discussed. A major impact of society on the sea and the rest of the planet comes from atmospheric gases mankind emits, causing changes in the heat balance. Carbon dioxide and methane are important to the greenhouse effect. To some extent the planet is self regulatory, but time constants for change are in the hundreds of years. This makes it important for governments to take steps to regulate themselves. The 1997 Third Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto was one such effort. The US committed itself to keeping its CO_2 emissions to 1990 levels, and to reduce emission of all greenhouse gases by 7% by the year 2012. See the glossary of global warming terms. Try looking up the term "global warming potential". It turns out that methane is 21 times worse that CO_2 per kilogram as an agent for global warming, and sulfer hexafloride (SF_6) is 24,000 times worse. Another concern is the ozone hole, caused by chemical substances such as chloroflorocarbons and methyl bromide (an effective pesticide that will no longer be produced in the US after the year 2000).